The Pack In The News
ABC News: Sandy Kenyon
Reviews "The Pack"
The Pack, directed by Alyssa Rallo Bennett and written by Alyssa and Gary O. Bennett, is a no-holds barred, stark look at the horrors of addiction. Compelling and frightening, The Pack is inspired by true events and dares to ask questions which remain unanswered to this day. Few films deserve the label "important," and this is one of them.
At its center is a portrait of a family torn apart by cancer. Nonsmoker Jack Jordan Sr. (Scott Bryce) has died of lung cancer at the age of 47, presumably brought on by 30 years of breathing his wife Eleanor's (Lucie Arnaz) secondhand smoke. An ambitious Assistant District Attorney (Carlos Leon) brings her to trial on murder charges, and 24-year-old son Jack Jr. (Ryan Homchick) is caught in the middle. The subsequent trial, the role young Jack plays in the proceedings, and the jury deliberations revolve around the questions of who knew what and when did they know it. Unspoken are the obvious political ramifications of the answers.
Arnaz gives a tour-de-force performance as the wife and mother whose only crime was that she was blissfully ignorant (or perhaps not) of the consequences of her actions. Homchick's Jack Jr. is like a puppy constantly on edge from having been beaten by one too many newspapers. The ensemble cast which makes up the jury, veterans as well as newcomers, inhabit their characters seamlessly. To single anyone out is a difficult task. Watch for Adam Ferrara as the maniacal Cassidy, who will not let go of his pro-tobacco stance, and Zach Galligan as Anson, a wide-eyed open book who can play the fool with ease.
The Pack cuts back and forth between the flashbacks of the family's past, the trial, and the jury deliberations. If told in linear fashion the film would likely have plodded along at an interminably slow pace. Instead, smart editing decisions placed each jump in time at precisely the right moment, while maintaining just enough consistency to avoid confusion. A careful balance needed to be struck, and kudos to editor Jeff Turboff for pulling it off masterfully. During the deliberation room scenes, cinematographer George Lyon cleverly used slow pans around the table to create a sense of movement where there was none. Occasional jump cuts sliced out the inevitable dead spots. The result puts still life into action -- no small feat.
The look of the film ironically contrasts the carefree days of the family's past with the sad reality of the present. Flashbacks are presented through the use of old home movies, bright and colorful and reflective of the myth we all bought into that secondhand tobacco smoke was benign. Scenes which take place in the present day are filled with blues and grays and give a dull, washed-out appearance, as though the air itself is affected by the cancer which struck down Jack Jordan Sr. The courthouse sets, particularly the jury deliberation room, are as cold and stark as can be.
A bit "Silkwood," "The Insider," and "12 Angry Men" all rolled into one, The Pack poses the question, "what if your behavior was legally accepted for dozens of years and all of a sudden it came into question?"
The Connecticut Film Festival in Danbury ended Sunday with one last burst of star power, a visit from Lucie Arnaz.
The actress, daughter of iconic comedian Lucille Ball and actor-musician Desi Arnaz, attended the festival at the Palace Theater to watch The Pack, a drama she stars in with Ryan Homchick.
"She pretty much came to watch the movie," said Alisa Gaudiosi, who coordinated publicity for the Memorial Day weekend event. "She bought popcorn and had some family with her."
Arnaz, whose father died of lung cancer, showed her support for her latest film's anti-smoking message and attended an after-party reception to benefit the American Cancer Society.
The movie is about an ambitious district attorney who prosecutes a woman on three counts of murder after her 47-year-old husband dies of lung cancer from allegedly breathing her secondhand smoke for 30 years. (Courant.com)
Watch this film!
Reviewed by Jenny Levison from the Hoboken Film Festival
The Pack achieves what all social issues films should — the issue (in this case, tobacco use, and in partcular second-hand smoke) — is contained in the DNA of each and every frame, and yet the story transcends the issue and carries us away in its own right.
In part a court-room drama, and in part a family tragedy, The Pack is directed (by Alyssa Rallo Bennett) with great restraint and a steady hand. In fact, the ensemble cast is excellent, with Lucie Arnaz negotiating the murky territory in her roles as mother, housewife, and murder suspect.
As someone who has been closely affected by the devastating effects if lung cancer, I appreciate this film for standing strong on one of the burning issues of modern times.
Excellent movie– sensitively done with a message that "burns"
Reviewed by Member of the NJ Board of Education
This is a movie that brings home the "burning" relationships between parents and children through the difficult issue of smoking. Who is to be blamed? How can a family survive the confrontation? It feels like a thriller but the message is all too clear! See it with your kids. Must see movie for the entire family. In these times, it can even be shown at middle and high schools when usually teens begin to experiment with smoking. And then, for the adults, it;s always good to remember what happens when a "pack" of cigarettes can really "burn" not just the lungs but the very fabric of the family. Alyssa and Gary Bennett did a great job with the script and the actors are naturals. A wonderful and touching movie overall.
“A thought-provoking presentation of smoke exposure, an issue that effects millions of children.”
— Jonathan P. Winickoff MD, MPH Chair, American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium
The Hollywood Breathes Fresh Air Event Panel (left to right) Jack Bennett, actor, Alyssa Rallo Bennett, director/writer/producer, Dr. William McCarthy, UCLA, Marsha Ramos, former governor of Burbank & American Lung Association Board, Dr. Horowitz, American Academy of Pediatrics, Molly Culver, actress, Jim Arnold, American Lung Association, Mitch Perliss, Distributor, Sterling Worldwide Entertainment.
"The Pack is a provocative film that raises issues pediatricians have been addressing for many years. The central point -- the dangers of second-hand-smoke -- is clear and well-documented. But The Pack also raises the important topic of personal responsibility. College counselors and employers around the country are seeing a generation of students who do not take responsibility for their actions and The Pack forces the audience to consider the extent to which a person is responsible for her actions. This powerful film can be a stepping stone to discuss a host of issues with teens and young adults, including smoking, alcohol and other drugs, media literacy, and personal responsibility."
— Dr. Paul Horowitz, American Academy of Pediatrics
Pack Mentality: For up-and-coming actor Ryan Homchick, the prospect of joining the family accounting firm just didn't add up.
Ryan Homchick slouches in a chair at a downtown coffeehouse, his exhausted face hidden under the tilted brim of a baseball cap. It's another steamy summer day in New York, and his twenty-seven-year-old dynamo– who is so far best known for his stage work with comedy troupe the Upright Citizen's Brigade and for an array of edgy parts in TV shows like The Sopranos and Law & Order– is in the final week of preparations before he heads off to film The Pack, a provocative courtroom tale of murder and forsaken love. Inspired by real-life stories and documented cases where secondhand smoke is believed to be the cause of unexpected death, the film follows an ambitious district attorney on the hot track of a cause celebre: the prosecution of a woman whose husband has been killed by breathing her secondhand smoke. Lucie Arnaz is the wife, and Homchick plays her son– the one who brings the suit against her.
Despite his Matt Damon-ish, clean-cut, all-American good looks, Homchick says, "Up until now, I would be cast as the guy with good comic timing, or a character that has killed forty people. For some reason, he deadpans, "both are very comfortable for me. But in the long run, it's better that people think of me as offbeat. Maybe they don't know what to do with you at first, but when you end up with something, it's a whole lot juicier."
Born in Seattle, Washington, Homchick first surprised his family with his passion for acting when, in fourth grade, one of his teachers asked him to write a biography of his life to be. "I said that I wanted to be an actor and earn $70,000 a year. I was very, very specific about that amount. Nothing has changed," he adds, "except the amount. More please!"
The dream began early, but Homchick admit the reality didn't kick in until much later: "There was a whole other life I was being groomed for. I was going to business school, as my dad and grandfather are both accountants. I knew there was a spot open for me with them, working at the same firm. It was secure, safe job I could've been at the rest of my life." He clears his throat. "I love my family, but I thought it might be interesting to try something else."
It is hard to think of Homchick as ever playing it safe. In his downtime, he is a regular Steve McQueen "thrillbilly," having become a certified open-road auto racer for the Looking Glass Corvette Race Team, placing in the top field at such famed road rallied as the Bonneville 100 and the Pony Express 130.
"More than ever, I like being in situations where the tide can turn at any moment," he says. "It forces you to become creative in every kind of difficult situation. Sure, it can be a little dangerous, but everyone has a different definition of what crazy is," he says with a laugh. "Coming to New York to make it as an actor would be high on the list."
Homchick began taking classes around town, and quickly began racking up local stage work and scoring the occasional commercial. But the real turning point, he says, is when he began attending NYU as a visiting student and met actor Vincent D'Onofrio.
"He would come in and co-teach a class every now and then," Homchick recalls. "But when the term ended, he told us, 'You guys rent a space every Sunday night, and I will show up and teach you [and] give you work to do throughout the week.' He's been doing that for us for the better part of a year now– for free! Aside from his amazing generosity, Vincent has given me the confidence not to second-guess myself. When you have a job once every nine months, you worry about how risky you should be. About tossing your nut out there on the table and failing. He taught me it's better to mess up and do it with all flags flying. That way, not only will the audience never forget what an ass you are," he adds, laughing, "but you'll know what to do better the next time. I'm no Jedi yet, but I'm trying.
— Shari Roman (Fade In)